Elderly, disabled suffer a week with no air conditioning

City official threatens legal steps against management of east-side apartments

July 21, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

About 50 residents of an East Baltimore apartment building for the elderly and disabled have endured this week's heat without air conditioning in their units since Monday.

Reggie Scriber, the city's deputy housing commissioner, said he visited Lanvale Towers in the 1300 block of E. Lanvale St. yesterday and threatened building management with legal action if the air-conditioning was not fixed within three hours. Last night, he said, everyone with respiratory problems had either a working air conditioner or a fan.

"This is a senior building ... . and I suspect whatever notice we wrote would hold up in court," Scriber said. "But I'm satisfied that progress is being made."

Scriber said building officials were performing scheduled preventive maintenance on its central air-conditioning, which is controlled by thermostat. He called the decision to continue the work while the city had issued a heat advisory "not the appropriate response."

Officials from the faith-based civic organization Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development also visited the building and reported finding elderly and disabled residents in sweltering apartments.

"They're trying to remodel the building," said Rob English, a lead organizer at BUILD. "The hottest time of the year, they turned off the air conditioners to begin remodeling, without notifying any of the residents."

The building's management was unavailable for comment.

Some residents in the building's lobby yesterday afternoon complained off uncomfortable temperatures and indifference from management.

Tony Maurice Jordan, 51, who said he has the AIDS virus, said his seventh-floor apartment has been stifling. He said his complaints to building management had gone unanswered and he bought a fan for relief.

"It's been hot," Jordan said. "You imagine being in an apartment closed up, with no breeze, no air, especially if you're sick."

Another resident, Tony Lee, 40, who has cerebral palsy, uses an oxygen tank for chronic asthma and was having difficulty breathing inside his apartment, said the management has been accommodating.

"They're on the job," he said.

Lee, who said he has a fan that wasn't doing much to cool him since the air conditioning stopped working, said the management bought him another fan earlier in the day. Later, when it became clear that wouldn't help, management bought him an air conditioner, he said.

Pastor J.L. Carter of the Ark Church said one of his congregants alerted him to the situation.

"I was livid," said Carter, who visited the building yesterday. "It's been so severe that a percentage of the residents have had to evacuate on their own, because they have been enduring this difficult burden."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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